marco polo video Gutkowski Rose finish Appalachian Trail

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It a hike, literally.

Traveling 2,189 miles on foot with 60 pounds of supplies in your backpack might sound like a daunting task, yet it one that Alma Rick Gutkowski and Traverse City Bradley Rose gutted out last year.

Last Feb. 15 Gutkowski, a 2013 Alma High School graduate, and Rose embarked on a journey that encompassed 2,189 miles as they hiked the entirety of the Appalachian Trail. This 136 day hike passed through 14 states, starting at Georgia Springer Mountain on Feb. 15 and concluding at Maine Mount Katahdin on July 2.

For Rose it was an adventure that he had been planning for some time and when he approached Gutkowski with his plans he duly jumped on board without hesitation.

asked Rick, are you doing anything for the next five months because I want to go backpacking, said Rose. was just something that I had planned out for months and wanted to do, so we did it. Not a lot of people actually make it though, maybe 200 per year. For us, once we started, we wanted to finish it and it was a great experience.

For Gutkowski the idea of moving off the grid for nearly half of 2017 sounded like a great idea, yet it came with a little backlash which comes with the territory.

was taking a break from school and it was a once in a lifetime opportunity so I went for it, said Gutkowski. people said I should stay in Mt. Pleasant and work and I get that, but you only young once. It was a good opportunity to work on myself.

Thousands upon thousands of people walk the Appalachian Trail yearly, but only about 13 percent of those who attempt to make the entire trek complete it. From day one that was the goal for Rose and Gutkowski and they got it done despite sometime miserable conditions and overwhelming odds.

Logging, on average, 16 miles per day for 136 straight days may seem like a bit much and initially it was. Yet after a couple weeks the two 21 year olds,
marco polo video Gutkowski Rose finish Appalachian Trail
along with their Husky dog Ava, were prepared both physically and mentally.

the start it was pretty rough because you have to be in really good shape to hike that far, said Gutkowski. takes a little while to get up to speed when you hiking five to six hours per day every day. Plus, you have to be prepared gear wise which I wasn initially. You think you going to need a lot of stuff that you don need. I had note pads and way too much hygene stuff that wasn necessary so I sent it back home. You find out real quick that what you need is food and water.

Sleeping in tents or shelters along the trail became the norm for both Rose and Gutkowski, yet the meandering hike also went through towns which offered up the occasional respite from roughing it. This cost money which is also something that one needs to bring on a five month odyssey.

we stayed in hostels which are rooms with bunk beds that people rent out, said Rose. gave you a chance to take a shower, do your laundry, that kind of stuff.

Along the way both Rose and Gutkowski received care packages from their families, which takes some planning ahead of time, and met a cast of characters who sometimes joined them on the journey.

of the people were super nice along the way, said Rose. towns appreciated the hikers because they constantly come through.

As for the weather, well it was sometimes nice and sometimes not so nice. Luckily no one got sick until the last leg of the hike.

first week was in the 70s, it was beautiful, said Gutkowski. in March, we got to the Smoky Mountains and elevation. It was cold and rainy and dangerous.

Rose added, up the mountains it was fine at first. It was 50 degrees and drizzling. When we got to the top there was a storm and lightning going off all around us. Clouds came in sideways and the hail was going upwards. It was scary so I started sprinting down. Rick came down about a half an hour later. That night the temperature dropped down to below 20 degrees and we were soaked. All of our clothes were frozen so we sat on them to thaw them out.

By the time June arrived the conditions obviously changed as did the challenges. Rather than cold and ice the trail was filled with bug and flies and sometimes oppressive heat.

Yet, after four plus months on the trail, both were now ready for whatever Mother Nature threw their way and with the end in sight they finished with a flourish by hammering out big mileage daily.

In the end the trek was something that Rose and Gutkowski will never forget.

people don get this kind of experience, moving off the grid for a while, said Rose. if you going to do it put some thought into it because it not something you can just go out and do. Physically it tough climbing mountains day after day with a 30 or 60 pound backpack.
marco polo video Gutkowski Rose finish Appalachian Trail